Right now, I do not have an office or corner in our little apartment for an official writing space. Instead, I write on my couch, at the kitchen table, in my bed, and sometimes at Starbucks, Kneaders, or the library. And you know what, that’s okay! When I started asking around, I discovered that plenty of people write without an official space to call their own. Even some famous writers had nothing more than a small round table to scribble their thoughts at (I’m looking at you, Jane Austen.) We write while our families do their own noisy things around us, and we produce beautiful work done nonetheless. I write in the noise, and in the mess, and without my favorite candle burning next to me. In a way, I think it’s been a useful learning opportunity for me. Writing up to this point has been a question of “how can I make this work despite all the awkward inconveniences in my way?” And I have fun thinking of new solutions!
So we’re here to talk about it all: how to decide if a dedicated writing space is necessary for you, what makes a good writing space and how to work with the space you have!
There is something magical about holding a physical copy of your own book. Being able to flip through the pages and see all your hard work flash in front of your eyes makes the whole process finally feel real. A lot of people will want to purchase your book via Amazon so their paperback and eBooks will come directly to their front porch or kindle. But what about people who go to bookstores to browse and see what captures their attention? What about teenagers at the library without much spending cash? How do we get our books into physical locations so they're accessible to everyone?
Barnes and Noble:
One of my mentors and friends who got me through the publishing journey is Dacia M. Arnold. She wrote an amazing, step by step article on how to query Barnes and Noble Bookstores. So, rather than re-vamp everything she said, I am only going to add a few thoughts to it.
Unless you're with a big 5 publisher, the only way to get your book into Barnes and Noble is to do a book signing there. They'll give you a cute table in a high traffic area where you can talk to patrons and sign your books. You can request a specific time to fit your own schedule, but it's much better to ask what they suggest. They know when their highest traffic/sales times are and will try to fit you in one of those slots. Any leftover copies after the signing will go on the shelves with a "Signed by the Author" sticker on front, and given a front facing spot on a shelf.
Having your books in Barnes and Noble can be exciting, but you will want to monitor the success of your sales after you leave. If Barnes and Noble doesn't sell your book within a set time period, they will ship it back to the distributor at the cost of your publisher or you (if you're self published). So, keep track, have fun and try to get there at the highest traffic hours to make your signing a success.
I believe in buying local. Indie bookstores often have a trusted client base who knows the owner and frequently stops by for recommendations. The best way to advertise your product in a small bookstore is to get to know the owner by... drum roll... having a book signing. Small bookstore owners are often very personable, so if you can't find scheduling information on their website, call them personally to see how to set up an event.
Have all of your information handy so they can look it up (See Dacia's article for a thorough example of the information they'll need). Ask if the bookstore sells on commission or not. If they do, you will be responsible for supplying the books during the event and they will cut you a check at the end of the night. An indie signing event will often be much more personal with opportunities for readings, Q. & A. sessions, and anything else you think might be entertaining, so have fun with it! Once you have the event scheduled, read this article to know what to do on the day of by Writers Digest.
Small Chain Bookstores:
Most small chain distributors have a "Product Submission" form you can find on their website. Your book will undergo review by their marketing team to see if it's a product they can sell enough of to make it worth their shelf space. These are much harder to get into, so don't be discouraged if you get plenty of rejection letters. (You thought the querying process was over once you got your publishing contract, right? Ha!) If you have a solid sales rate in other stores or on amazon, it will really help the potential of reaching these smaller local markets.
Often times, large events near you will have temporary bookseller booths. Look in your area for conferences, conventions, and community arts events. Sometimes you will need to purchase your own booth to sell your books (becoming your own, mini bookstore) and other times you will be able to join a larger group who already has a booth. There are pros and cons to each, but try a few events out and see which ones work for you.
There are three ways to present your book for consideration at a library: personally, through a submission form, or a friend's request. Pitching a self published book to a library is often a much harder sell than if you were traditionally published (even by a small press), but it is possible. The Writing Cooperative offers some helpful tips for how to make this process easier.
If at all possible, I like to go in to the library to introduce myself and my book. Speaking with librarians face to face starts a relationship. Knowing that you're local and that you present yourself well, they may be more willing to involve you in their library programs: hosting an author night, teen program, or other event where you will be able to sell your books to patrons and not just for the library shelves.
When I go in, I approach the information desk and ask who the acquiring librarian is. I make sure to bring a copy of my book, my business card, and a library fact sheet (see example below). This sheet looks professional and makes it much easier for librarians. Remember that this is a business meeting, so being professional makes all the difference in the world.
If you live too far away from a library, but know that you have a client base in that area, visit the libraries website and browse for submission guidelines. This is where your querying skills come in. Each library, store, or event will have different guidelines. So do your research. But don't worry. You've got this.
Every library has a form for patrons to request books they'd like to see on the shelves. Librarians take these requests seriously. And if they get more than one request, they are even more likely to purchase the title. Don't get pushy with your friends, but if they ever ask if there's a way they can help you, say "Leaving a review online and requesting the book at your library make a huge difference!". I have had some wonderful support that got Shattered Snow into libraries in California, Utah, Oregon, and Idaho without me making any personal requests at all.
I hope this has been helpful, and that you have some new ideas for where your book can go. I love seeing where my book pops up, it feels a bit like traveling when someone posts a selfie with my book in a new location.
Written by Rachel Huffmire
Rachel works as a novelist and acquisitions editor for Immortal Works Press. You can find her in southern California where she enjoys sand at its finest: the beach and the desert. She writes science fiction, fantasy, and historical novels and reads bedtime stories to her husband every night. Her first novel, Shattered Snow, is available in paperback and ebook on Amazon.
Creating an author platform can be daunting, especially if you are a debut author, or have never published a book. I use to wonder why someone would follow an author before they were published. Now, I know there are many ways we can be of value to the book/writing community at the beginning of our careers.
Today I am going to share with you five recommendations for planning your author platform, so that you may begin to connect with your future readers and have fun while creating it.
It’s finally quiet. Prime time to get working on that manuscript. But instead, you clean the kitchen and fold the laundry. When you run out of housework, you sit down and swear you’re going to write. You’ve picked out the perfect music. You’ve got your favorite beverage within arm’s reach. Your laptop’s open. But instead of writing, you’re on social media again. Then someone calls you and asks if you want to hang out. You say yes, telling yourself that writing is something you can fit in at any time, after all. It’s okay to put it off a bit longer.
We’ve all been in situations like this, where we have good intentions, but we don’t know how to make ourselves move forward. Our focus lapses. Our motivation wanes. Instant gratification gets in the way of our goals, and we’re left regretting all the time we obviously should have spent working, but didn’t. Why does this happen?
It’s no secret that the revision process is the bane of my existence. I love when it all comes together at the end and there’s something satisfying about having the perfect plot idea click in your brain, but revising is so messy! And for me, revision brings on the most resistance and fear. What if I’m not actually a good writer? This book is horrible! No one will ever want to read it. These thoughts are the result of resistance trying to stop growth.
While recently avoiding revision, I listened to the audiobook of Steven Pressfield’s book “The War of Art.” It’s a fantastic read; I highly recommend you pick it up. In his book, Pressfield comments on the fact that resistance is part of the writing process. It can occur at any and every stage of writing, from the first draft to final submission. As writers, we should expect it.
Resistance comes when we are trying to do something good, something that will cause ourselves or others to grow. It’s also the direct result of love. If you’re feeling a lot of resistance in your work right now, it’s a sign that you’re doing a good thing that you love doing. Take that to heart and use your passion to fuel your work!
Some signs that you’re giving into revision avoidance (and therefore resistance) are clean laundry and dishes, children dressed in matching clothes, and frequent social media posts. Meals are cooked at home and surfaces that weren’t clean much (if at all) during the first draft stage are sparkling. The dog gets walked and movies get watched and the manuscript sits on your computer, staring in accusation every time the laptop is opened because you can’t quite bring yourself to close the document and acknowledge that you’re avoiding it, am I right?
The cure for revision avoidance is the famous B.I.C. treatment (Butt In Chair). There are no magical treatments or cures. Acknowledge your fears and move through resistance to fill that seat, open that computer, and get to work. Do the work that you’re meant to do and don’t let resistance win! These story ideas came to you for a reason.
That said, sometimes you just need a break. It’s not bad to take a break. Ideally, set a timer and let yourself browse online for a few minutes, then set your timer again and get back to your manuscript. Don’t let a “break” become days or weeks or months of “writer’s block.” Commit to your story and commit to yourself.
I know I needed a break recently. So, I browsed through memes for writers and decided to compile some of the best ones for your reading pleasure. Have a laugh and then get back to it! You have a book to write.
In October, my very first short story will be published in the Of Fae and Fate Anthology. I think I’m still floored. In fact, an old friend introduced me as an author the other day and my knee jerk reaction was “Me? No, no that’s not true. I’m just a writer.”
Just a writer.
Or am I really an Author now?
It’s funny because I totally bought into the idea that you’re a writer until you sign that contract, then you’re an Author. With a capital A. But now I’m here and I can’t help but wonder, is it different if you just publish a short story? Should you actually cash a check before you call yourself a "capital A" Author? What does it mean if I am an Author now? how am I supposed to act? And why do I keep referring to what I do in the terms of “just___”. Just a Mom. Just a Writer. Just an Author?
As you can see, I have a lot of learning to do, and some of it requires answers you can only get from digging deep down inside. So, let’s chat about how to decide what a title should mean, professionalism, and the relationships you make and keep along the way.
I’ve been part of Writing Through Brambles for over five years. I’ve watched members publish their first works and present multiple stories for critiquing and workshopping. I’ve cheered from the sidelines as they’ve done book signings and interviews. On writing group nights, whenever I have questions, they’re always able to give me great ideas to fix problems, and book recommendations to learn more about plot and character progression.
But even in five years, after presenting three stories, finishing one, winning NanoWrimo, and attending a bunch of conferences, I still feel like I know so little about how to be a writer that doesn’t just write when I feel like it, or who sets my work aside when life happens.
Thankfully, books, conferences, and plain old trial-and-error are great resources for learning what I need to know to take the next step in my writing career. Here are some things I’m currently studying:
How to Generate Ideas
A thought that often hangs me up when I’m writing is, “What if you can’t think of anything else to write when you’re done with this book?” It halts my progress, convincing me that even if I never finish my current work in progress, I’ll at least always have a familiar story to work with.
I’ve also noticed that all the stories I’ve thought of so far have a similar theme to them, if you strip them down to the bare bones, so in spite of having different character arcs and plot points, part of me thinks I’ve only ever had one idea in my life.
As writers, we are always chasing an upward trajectory. Higher word counts, query more agents, publish more books, earn more money... There's always another mountain to climb. That's why we attend conferences, read, and join writing groups. If we keep growing and improving, we'll finally make it to our goals where we can sit back comfortably and bask in our accomplishment. Right?
Yes. That is exactly right.
This month, I found myself feeling pretty good. I have a stable writing group that keeps me motivated, I got my first royalty check ever, and my sequel is wrapping up into a neat little package. Things are on track and the Rachel train has got momentum (woot woot!). I have to admit, a lot of this momentum comes from a year of working my tail off, but right now, I felt like I was coasting, and it felt nice.
To celebrate my comfortable place in the sun, I indulged myself and purchased a ticket to spend two days at the Storymakers conference in Provo, Utah. I have never been to a writing conference outside of LTUE, so I was excited to try something new. It's held in the same conference center as LTUE, so I expected that it wouldn't be much different than what I already knew. Nice and comfortable.
The familiar conference center was completely transformed. Instead of recognizing half of the faces around me, I only knew a handful of people. Instead of knowing exactly which panelists to follow, I was sitting in lectures by people I had never even heard of. I texted my husband...
As a published author, I want to believe I've made it and I know everything I need to succeed going forward. The truth is, there's a lot I don't know. Besides that, my definition of success keeps changing, and every time it does I realize I need to learn more to move forward in my career.
I've published two fantasy novels and two short stories in anthologies. My next goal is to self-publish an entire trilogy by the end of 2019. I aim to increase my writing income tenfold, and, as expected, that's not coming easy. Here are a few things I am striving to learn right now to reach that level of success as a writer:
How to (Intentionally) Write a Series
My first two books are technically a series, but I didn't plan them that way! When I published Woven I had no idea Bound would ever exist. Once it was published, I got the idea for the sequel. (I don't recommend that, by the way.)
Now I'm attempting to plot and write an entire trilogy before any of them are published. To be totally honest, it kind of sucks. I'm getting a perfect sense of the quote, “Writers are people for whom words come harder to than most people.”
Why would that be? Well, because we want to succeed so darn bad! As for me, I find myself acutely aware of every time my writing doesn't measure up to the incredible published books I'm reading. It makes it so much harder to write. I wish I could magically obtain the knowledge as some rite of passage for having already published, but it doesn't work that way.
What am I doing about it? I'm taking a course called “Publishing Mastermind” from USA Today Bestselling author Rebecca Mckernan, for starters. In her course, she leads you through a series of highly valuable lessons on craft, publishing, and marketing. Any author would benefit from her courses. Publishing Mastermind is the big one, but she also has several smaller courses, including “Plotting the Breakout Bestseller” and “The Secret to Series that Sell”. Most of her courses are included in the Publishing Mastermind course I mentioned.
I'm also using a tool called Plottr to get my outlines straight, as I mentioned in my post, “Hanging up Your Writing Pants”. It's turning me into a plotter, rather than a pantser, one outline at a time. They have an app now, too!
I'm also getting help from my writing group. They're learning right along with me, and their advice always seems to be just what I need, no matter the issue I'm facing.
By the time this trilogy is done, I'm determined to be a plotting, series-writing MASTER.
(The Pokemon theme song is playing in my head right now…anyone else?)
I recently read a fantastic post-apocalyptic trilogy by an indie author, Tricia Wentworth. We connected through a Facebook group when she posted about her success with "The Culling" trilogy, which she wrote while raising her two boys, giving birth to her third right before the final book in her trilogy released. I'm so glad she was willing to do this interview with me!
Also, be sure to enter our giveaway at the bottom of this post. You won't want to miss this incredible post-apocalyptic series!
"Being a stay-at-home mom to a four-year-old and two-year-old is insane. Writing books, monster-sized ones in my case, is insane. Doing both at the same time while being pregnant...there aren’t words. Writer-mom life is a special sort of madness, y’all. But the only thing I love more than writing is the three little boys that call me “Mommy”. I’m just crazy enough to think I can be a great mom and a great writer." - Tricia Wentworth
Bree Moore: Can you give us a brief summary of your publishing journey? How did you get where you are today?
Tricia Wentworth: It wasn’t until after graduating college the idea to write my own story came about. I was nannying a junior-high-aged girl around the time the Hunger Games movies came out. We got super excited and into the second movie release. I remember telling her I would’ve done something different with the plot in that movie/book, an alternate ending of sorts. Though I don’t remember how it was I would’ve changed it, I do remember what her reaction was. She said, “Maybe you should write a book.” To which I responded with something like, “That’s crazy, who does that?”
And here I am. Stilllll writing. From that point on, I began to learn about this art form we call writing. I wrote a very rough draft of the first book in a different series, but I just knew my writing skills were not where they needed to be to finish the other two books. Then I was sitting there one day, watching The Bachelorette on TV (it’s my guilty pleasure, don’t judge!), and I had this thought of “What if everyone died from something horrible and they had to date one another to find a partner to run the country!?”
Over 530,000 words later, that story evolved into my three published books today. Looking back, I should’ve known. I’ve always had a hyperactive imagination and I’ve always loved reading. How I wish I would’ve known sooner I wanted to write!
Bree Moore: Why did you choose self-publishing?
Tricia Wentworth: I started the process of sending out query letters to agents. I got lots of nos and one kind soul who said to keep trying and that my story sounded interesting but she didn’t have the opening in her schedule to take on another author. I felt like I was spending all my time researching and looking for an agent, and not just any agent, but an agent I felt was a good fit for me and my style. After a few months, it began to feel too much like online dating. With a swipe here and a swipe there. Here a swipe. There a swipe. Everywhere a swipe, swipe.
And call me a control freak, but with self-publishing, I loved the idea of having control over it all. Once I made the decision to go indie, there was no going back. I love that it gives the underdog a fighting chance.
Bree Moore: What has been your favorite part of self-publishing?
Tricia Wentworth: Interacting with my fans on my Facebook page and reading reviews of my published stuff. I have met some of the coolest people on this journey. It totally makes my day to get emails from parents too, telling me their child has been reading my books. Even though I am a measly three books into my author career, it is still just so surreal that people read my books. And though you can’t please everyone, some people actually LIKE them. Say whaaaaaaat?!
Bree Moore: How do you define having a successful author career?
Tricia Wentworth: As a writer-mom, if I manage to feed the children and hit my daily writing goal, that is success. Bonus points if I get a shower and a light application of makeup in that day! My ultimate goal has always been to replace my teaching income, and spoiler alert... teachers do not make thaaaaat much money. So I am working toward that goal. I want to be able to write full time once my three boys are all in school.
Bree Moore: Where did you get your idea for The Culling series?
Tricia Wentworth: Like I said before, it was a random idea I had that spiraled into what it is today. I will add onto that to say I had been wanting to read and looking for something post-apocalyptic. And not just post-apocalyptic, as in immediately after the end of the world, but post-post-apocalyptic. I had been wanting to read something that happened a hundred or so years after the end of the world, how it all worked out, how they grew the population back, etc. I wasn’t finding it in what I had been reading, so I wrote it. In my case the “write the book you want to read” saying definitely happened. I did exactly that in a genre near and dear to my heart.
Bree Moore: Do you have any marketing tips for authors you'd like to share?
Tricia Wentworth: Do your best to figure out AMS ads, specifically your blurb for the ad. Be ready to fail a few times while you get it figured out, but advertising is super important to us indie authors. It was a total game changer for me so I cannot say it enough! AMS, peeps. AMS!
Bree Moore: As a parent-author, what challenges do you face in making time to write, publish, and market your books?
Tricia Wentworth: I am a stay-at-home-mom to a newborn baby, born five days before my third book went live, an almost three-year-old, and a five-year-old. All boys. My house is filled to the brim with scooters and nerf guns and all things chaos. I aim for an hour of writing/editing time at naptime, or I did before the new babe came along since I’m on maternity leave from writing at the moment. Most of my writing time has to be from 8-11 pm, after bedtime, because it’s all I have. And it is hard to find the time and stay motivated. Mommyhood is exhausting, but I’ve found I need to write to feel like “me”. It’s my me time; it keeps me sane. It’s hard work and doubly exhausting trying to be a good mom and a good writer, so tons of grace is required. Some days I cannot and will not be able to do it all. I have to know that and remind myself of it daily. I also keep reminding myself that someday they will go to school. Of course then I will be a glorified taxi service too! So it will always be a struggle and take balance. And guts. Tons of guts.
Bree Moore: What advice do you have for other parent-authors?
Tricia Wentworth: Goals! I am super goal oriented. Every month I get out my calendar and make a big goal for the month, weekly goals, and daily goals. Annnnd, I schedule in time off, which in my case is Sundays to spend with my family. I work harder during the week knowing that day off is coming up and then I use those days off to regroup and relax. At this point, after making goals this way for going on three years, I am addicted to meeting my goals. Daily, weekly, and monthly. It feels good to keep accomplishing and slowly checking off the to-do list on the way to pub-day!
Bree Moore: Do you have any new releases coming in 2019? Or, what are you currently working on?
Tricia Wentworth: I have a cozy Christmas romance manuscript that is actually normal sized. I’m debating whether I can get it spruced up and ready to go for this fall. If not, for sure next fall. And then I’ll be starting on my spin-off series to the Culling series. After all this editing in getting my most recent book out, I am beyond excited for a blank word document and that blinking cursor. My fingers are itching to write!
Bree Moore: Lastly, what's your favorite kind of chocolate?
Tricia Wentworth: Allllll the chocolate. Except mint chocolate. I mean, why would you ruin something as sacred as chocolate with mintiness?! Save that crap for toothpaste.
Tricia Wentworth began writing at a young age but didn't realize it was her jam until after college. She is originally from small-town Nebraska. She currently resides in Texas with her husband, two sons, and English bulldog. When not reading, writing, or momming, she can be found squeezing in a run or feeding her sugar addiction by baking something ridiculously delicious.
Win an ebook copy of "The Culling"!
We're all writers, we're all moms, writing our way through the "brambles" of life and our stories.